Game 2 of 2
It's our last game of the season, as I bring both Chihiro and Kei to Slugger Field by redeeming a pair of unused season tickets and splurging for an extra seat, all in the lawn section, where I enjoy sitting from time to time. The Columbus Clippers are back in town, we saw them here last week as they fell to the wayward Bats 10-7. Tonight, as we make our way around the concourse and the starting lineups are being posted, I notice a familiar face on the Pepsi Vision jumbotron...a friendly, smiling face staring down at us, larger than life, pictured in his Padres cap...that face belonged to Aaron Cunningham; it was this very same shot:
Yes, Aaron was a Padre...but not anymore. I had lost track of him, and was genuinely shocked to see his face way up there. As we took our seats and I shriveled with glee over Cunningham in the lineup, my girls wanted to know why I was so excited...beyond the fact that he was a Padre, that is. They aren't really much into statistics, but in Cunningham's case, that story isn't a good one.
As the game ensues, and Cunningham prepares for his first plate appearance in the 3rd (the game is still scoreless), I've reviewed Cunningham's numbers and my daughter Kei notices by abject cringing. Sure, hew was a Padre, and gave that his best shot, but he batted .243/.301/.396 in 2 years and 105 games in 2010-2011...his 2011 season alone he posted a dismal .178/.257/.367 in 52 games, and was pretty much on his way elsewhere when he was traded to the Cleveland Indians in late 2011 for Cory Burns. Cunningham spent the better part of 2012 with the Indians, again choking at the plate to the tune of .175/.245/.247 in 72 games, heading to the Clippers to clear a roster spot in late July. As of tonight's game, he's not doing any better, hitting .135/.237/.173 in 16 games.
As I'm explaining OBP, SLG, and OPS to Kei (and trying to think of some other way to defend my adoration of Cunningham other than his lowly OPS), Cunningham is working Bats SP Pedro Villareal into a full-count. On the 6th pitch, Cunningham connects for a lofty HR to left-center, one that fell in the left-field boxes, only a few feet from where we were sitting. One more ricochet off of an empty seat, and we would have had a serious chance at catching that ball.
It was more than interesting that this event occurred just as I was using Cunningham's performance of record to not only explain why he was batting 9th in the lineup, but also to explain why nobody could count on him to do anything outrageous tonight. As to further send my review and dissertation of his tendencies to my daughter, he promoted his feats at the plate by eventually nearly hitting for the cycle, a triple shy of doing so. He was not eligible for this opportunity as he approached the plate in the top of the 9th, with one on and no outs, and was instructed to bunt...which he effectively did.
Certainly tonight's performance isn't going to signal a turnaround for the 26-year-old, who needs to find something to grow on very soon or else his career will be in greater jeopardy...but for a guy like this, tonight was definitively a game he could truly hang his hat on. As for me, it justified in many ways why I really really adore some players, even if their numbers don't add up to anything more than a bomb and a few goose eggs.
During the 5th inning, we noticed many empty seats in our usual spot in the upper deck, so the girls persuaded me to pack up and move on up there to join our friend Jimmy for the rest of the game. Foul balls were literally raining in our section, and a lot of souvenirs made a lot of folks happy. Jimmy was kind enough to share some of the great photos he's been taking with me, here are a couple from this game.
Denis Phipps in the 1st inning, as he cracks a lead-off double to left field. Photo by Jimmy Bessar.
Didi Gregorius strikes out swinging. Photo by Jimmy Bessar.
It's worth mentioning that I was lucky enough to see Loek Van Mil pitch an inning for the Clippers. At 7' 1" he is the tallest player in professional baseball, right now...or so I'm told.
We all played the Mystery Rookie Card game, of course. My pick was a dud, this 2008 Topps Chin-Ling Hu RC. Chihiro picked another one of his cards earlier in the season, I kinda teased her a little about it...so I suppose this is payback.
Chihiro picked this 2006 Bowman Mike Pelfrey RC. Sweet.
Kei has a prime component of the Rookie Card game worked out...I always let my guests pick first, and Kei knows not to pick by color, but by weight. She nailed a bonus, first of all, this 2007 Bowman Dennis Dove RC. Dove was a 3rd round draft pick in 2003 by the St Louis Cardinals, and spent 5 seasons in their Minor League system with a 14-24 record and 4.54 ERA before getting called up to the Majors after the tragic death of Josh Hancock in an auto accident. Dove needed something better than his two pitches to succeed, but never found them in time before injuries sidelined him, appearing in only 3 games and accruing a blistering ERA of 15.00; the Cardinals optioned him back to AAA at the end of the season and he hasn't pitched professionally since.
Kei's bonus card in her envelope was this 2007 Topps Carlos Guillen AL All-Star Copper Parallel, number 14 of 56, with a book value of $6 or so. She wouldn't trade this for my Chin-Lung Hu card...I think she's on to me.
Fun times, fun season...despite the failings of the Bats. Thanks again to Jimmy for sharing the photos!
Official Program #4, featuring Didi Gregorius...still misspelled, inside and out.
Official Scorecard #3, featuring Corky Miller, and autographed by Corky Miller.
Bat Chat and Gameday Stats (never mind they meant nothing to Aaron Cunningham tonight)